Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What a Rush at Nationwide Arena in Columbus!

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- I popped my Rush cherry Monday night.

Yup, everything you've heard about this legendary Canadian trio in concert is true. Their laser show is killer and of course, their musicianship ... Wow. Even as a just very casual Rush fan, I have to recommend you see these rockers live.

By far I was the rookie of the group who attended Monday's show at Nationwide Arena. This is was the 26th Rush show for my co-worker and concert-going buddy Scott Seitz and this was No. 42 for his buddy Dave. Local attorney Jim Sitterly had gone to seven concerts and this was the second time for his girlfriend's twin sister.

“Thanks for helping us celebrate our 40th birthday,” singer/bassist Geddy Lee said early in the first set.

As Scott and Dave reminded me, Rush actually has been in existence for 41 years.

Regardless, the band is celebrating its entire history with a brilliant set list during the "R40 Live: 40th Anniversary Tour"; Rush starts with its most recent material and works its way backwards chronologically. By the veteran Rush fans' count, the band packed in 26 songs from 15 albums.

“We’d like to continue with our time traveling,” Lee said midway through the hour-plus first set. “Of course, we’re doing it backwards.”
Geddy Lee often put his hand to his ear while singing Monday.

That meant the concert opener was "The Anarchist" (which Dave said he's never guessed that Rush would use as an opener "in a million years") and a couple other songs from the 2012 album CLOCKWORK ANGELS. It wasn't until the last song of the first set that I heard a tune I recognized, "Subdivisions" — which if you're like me, you'll know it when you hear it.

Rush played solid in the first set of songs.

But the second set was killer. That's when the trio played their wildest, hardest grooves and showed (as should be obvious to anyone with an ear), that the band members are masters of their craft.

As I told Scott, the first three songs of the second set made it all worth it. That's when Rush just crushed the classics "Tom Sawyer," "Red Barchetta" and "The Spirit of Radio." The band got its rock god mojo going and really let everyone know they play hard rock, with killer power chords and riffs by guitarist Alex Lifeson, who was nothing short of phenomenal. I'd put him against any guitarist any day. A killer player.

Rush fans will hate me for this — but you don't come to a Rush concert for Lee's voice. I've never been a fan of his nasally delivery. The audio mix was on the muddy side, except for the solos.

Lifeson and Peart simply nailed each one of their solos. Peart is the hardest working drummer in the business, but makes all his hard work look effortless. He's by far the greatest rock drummer I've heard in concert. Peart is nothing short of a virtuoso.

Rush followed up the radio-friendly "The Spirit of Radio" with a show stunner, "Jacob's Ladder," a true setlist rarity.

Jim was out of his seat, screaming his head off. I'd never seen him so excited. (Of course I'm used to covering him in common pleas court, so there is that...!) I asked him if he might need a tissue to clean up; it was probably better off he didn't hear me.

The four-song encore set was just as brilliant.

As Gary Budak, of THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, wrote in his review:"The encores came quickly, with a disco ball and Eugene Levy (in a prerecorded, tongue-in cheek bit) introducing the band. Rush did the obscure 'Lakeside Park' (CARELESS STEEL, 1975); 'Anthem' (FLY BY NIGHT, 1975); and 'What You’re Doing' from its 1974 debut. Fittingly, Rush ended the show with the song that first made it popular, 'Working Man.'"

As the show progressed, stagehands broke down elements of the stage. In the first set, which included the fanciest of the suspended lights which sometimes spun, they turned odd-looking bits of apparatus around every once in a while and eventually revealed four front-loading dishwashers sitting in a line.

This is logo for Rush's "R40: 40th Anniversary Tour."
During the second set, the stagehands little by little removed stacks of Marshall amplifiers that sat on either side of Peart's drumset. (He played double bass in the second set and used a single bass drum in the first.) Eventually, it was just Rush onstage doing its thing.

The back screen showed a high school gymnasium during the one of the encore tunes — places I'm sure Rush played a lot in their early days. The disassembling seemed to represent the band breaking down its own career.

Not quite a greatest hits or farewell show, "R40" definitely is Rush's way of paying homage to its own career. If this is their last big tour -- or even the last one ever, Monday's was a tight, classic performance. I'm honored to have seen such a fine band in concert. Grade: A-

And guess who is traveling to The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit to see Rush again Sunday?

Yup: Scott, Dave and me. ... What can I say?

Monday's set list
First set:
The Anarchist
Clockwork Angels
Headlong Flight (with "Drumbastica" mini drum solo) 
Far Cry
The Main Monkey Business
One Little Victory
Roll the Bones
Distant Early Warning

Second set:
No Country for Old Hens (video montage, ending with the "South Park" characters counting off...)
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Spirit of Radio
Jacob's Ladder
Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude
Cygnus X-1 (The Voyage Part 1 & 3 with drum solo)
Closer to the Heart
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
2112 Part IV: Presentation
2112 Part VII: Grand Finale

Mel's Rock Pile (a Monty Python-esque video montage starring Eugene Levy)
Lakeside Park
What You're Doing
Working Man

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